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1 review, 7 user ratings

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Manhattan, Kansas
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by Scott Weinberg

"My Mother, The Weirdo"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: This is a movie about Tara Wray's mom, Evie. It's not a fancy, flashy, or particularly earth-shattering documentary, but a simple story about a mother and daughter who used to be really close, but aren't anymore -- because, to be honest, Mom's kinda ... weird.

Hey, even your weird relatives need love too, right?

Manhattan, Kansas brings us along for the ride as Tara Wray struggles through the mysteries of her own mother. Is Evie just a wide-eyed, free-spirited former hippie? A drunken goofball? Maybe a bi-polar schizophrenic who could make do with some solid meds?

All of these possibilities arise, but what Tara wants most is to simply "connect" with her mom, to feel comfortable in her presence, and to mend some fences in a difficult relationship. Exactly the same process you follow with your own mothers, uncles, or cousins after a lapse in communication or a nasty fight.

Raised in a fairly loose single-parent household, Tara got along with her mother very well until she grew old enough to realize that Evie was a bit stranger than other moms. The relationship strained well before Tara ended up in a New York apartment, and Manhattan, Kansas begins as our young filmmaker heads back home to the heartland, where Evie is waiting for the reunion.

Anyone who's ever struggled through a long-standing family rift, only to come back together in tentative fashion, should appreciate Tara's low-key and no-frills approach to storytelling. Her self-deprecating and intermittently confused attitude only serves to amp up the 'reality' of the tale. This is not a filmmaker aiming for a huge sweeping statement, but a girl with a camera hoping to reconnect with one lonely parent. The "smallness" of Manhattan, Kansas is what makes the film so engaging. It might have a "home movie" feel to it, but heck, sometimes "home movies" can be pretty enlightening--even if they're not yours.

You'll find yourself wondering "why should I care about this particular mother / daughter relationship?" a few times, and that's a fair question. The film's conclusion offers an answer and turns an intimate documentary into a strangely satisfying movie.

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originally posted: 03/22/06 16:00:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Independent Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Independent Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/28/09 jeri CrIed because I have the exact same relationship with my daughter 5 stars
9/16/07 Deborah Daring to surrender, what a marvelous piece of filmwork. Thank you Tara and Evie. 5 stars
6/26/06 evie wray mothers and daughters,sun and moon, fire and water, we're suppose to sing our own tune. 5 stars
4/11/06 Angie Kjellberg I LOVED this Film! What a wonderful peice of Art! 5 stars
4/02/06 Evie Wray I adore the courage to have an authentic voice. There is really great love it just that. 5 stars
3/22/06 Craig One of the best personal docs I've ever seen. Akin to Grey Gardens. 5 stars
3/14/06 Tabitha There's a better version of this movie out there ... try "Tarnation" instead. 2 stars
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  DVD: 18-Nov-2008


  DVD: 18-Nov-2008

Directed by
  Tara Wray

Written by
  Tara Wray

  Evie Wray
  Tara Wray

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